By Ed Odeven
TOKYO (July 8, 2020) — Stadium Journey chronicles the fan experience at ballparks, arenas and sporting venues around the world.
The ambitious website has a dedicated group of correspondents who report on what they have seen and experienced while watching sports at venues of all sizes. There are 12 categories under the Soccer banner, for instance. Articles, photographs and podcasts provide an interesting mix of insights about sports venues. For Nippon Professional Baseball, a trip to iconic Koshien Stadium produced these vivid photos: https://stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/koshien-stadium-s1700
In a recent interview conducted via email with Paul Baker, the president of Stadium Journey, details of how the organization operates and why it does what it does were discussed.
For starters, can you provide a brief introduction of the company, while detailing how and why it was started?
Stadium Journey was founded by Paul Swaney in 2010 as a way to document his quest to visit all the venues of the four major leagues. He soon found many kindred spirits out there who shared the same passion for ballparks, and Stadium Journey was born. What started as a quest to document the 124 (at the time) major league venues in North America has turned into a worldwide venture with reviews of close to 2,500 sporting venues.
What have you enjoyed about working in sports with an organization that provides information and insights to people about sports leagues around the world?
For myself, the opportunity to visit cities all across the country, including so many venues and places I would never have otherwise even considered has been a great thrill. Meeting so many people who share my love of sports and travel has been a highlight.
Do you have correspondents and contributors around the world who feed you information about the fan experience at ballparks, stadiums and arenas? Or do you mostly (or only) produce reports and social media posts based on your experiences?
Stadium Journey is hardly a one-person operation. We have correspondents from around the world who contribute material to the website. We currently have a team of close to 100 writers who have produced reviews of venues in 26 different countries.
How important is the food and beverage experience at sports venues in how you rate them?
Our FANFARE rating scale takes into account several different factors of the gameday experience. The first “F” stands for “food and beverage,” so I guess food would account for 1/7 of the overall experience, according to our metric.
Where is the best hot dog sold? Best beer? Best peanuts? Best __ (obscure snack)?
This may sound a bit obtuse for someone who rates ballpark food, but I’m not really one to eat a whole lot of ballpark food. Perhaps it’s that working in ballpark concessions for a dozen years has jaded me, but I prefer trying more unique menu items when traveling to a ballpark rather than eating just a $4 ballpark hot dog. Also, to me, the mess created by a bag of peanuts at a ball game is just not worth it. There are so many unique items to be found at ballparks across the country. It’s really become an arms race of sorts to make concessions bigger, better and stranger.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, your work has been greatly impacted. Are you planning, or already doing, some unique projects that are related to all of the past travels you’ve done for Stadium Journey?
I’m proud to say that our management team reacted very quickly when sports were shut down to pivot from our traditional review-based content to a more feature-driven model. Over the past few months we’ve managed to continue to create new content by featuring breaking news, ranking lists, book and food reviews, opinion pieces and podcasts. As venues start to open up, you’ll start to see us integrating reviews back into our rotation.
How have you planned in the past for journeys throughout North America to visit sports venues? Is there a certain target you had in mind each year for number of places you wanted to get to? Did you also have a goal to visit a certain number of homes for different sports, different states, different countries?
We organize our reviews by having Regional Correspondents located throughout the country who are responsible for keeping the reviews in their area current. In addition, Special Correspondents augment our coverage. Many of our correspondents (myself included) enjoy traveling beyond our home territories and contribute when possible while on the road. Personally, I’m based in New England, but have contributed reviews of venues from coast to coast. Ballpark chasing is like a drug, once you get hooked you want to explore more and more. Many chasers share common goals, such as “Club 123,” visiting all the venues of the four major league sports.
Approximately, how many venues, different types of sports, events and states and countries have you been to over the years since Stadium Journey was formed?
I’ve been to about 300 venues in 40 states since starting at Stadium Journey in 2013. We have correspondents who blow those numbers out of the water.
Can you give a rundown of some of your favorite places to watch particularsports and why they are atop your lists?
I’ve always been a fan of minor league sports, the lower pressure and more pure atmosphere is something that fits better with my personality and style.
Some of my favorites:
MLB – PNC Park (Pittsburgh), Camden Yards (Baltimore), Fenway Park (Boston)
Minor league baseball – Dr. Pepper Park (Frisco), BB&T Ballpark (Charlotte), Warner Park (Omaha)
Minor league hockey – Hersheypark Arena (Hershey), Dunkin’ Donuts Center (Providence)
There are more than I could possibly list here.
Follow Paul Baker on Twitter: https://twitter.com/PuckmanRI
Follow Stadium Journey’s Twitter feed.